Reading, watching or listening to a well-told story about people undergoing trauma or persecution can certainly build compassion.
But just telling the story, no matter how compelling, may still fall short of providing audiences with a visceral glimpse into other people's realities, an understanding of what they're seeing and feeling that's impactful enough to inspire empathy and action.
Teach with the Lowdown and Above the Noise
Ideas for analysis, discussion and multimedia projects. Browse our lesson archive here.
Read-Think-Respond: Can VR really make people more compassionate and encourage acts of kindness?[comment here]
Youth media: A short video produced by students from BAYCAT about the VR experience
That’s where virtual reality can play an integral role, argue proponents of the technology. Beyond just an immersive experience for gamers or an influential tool for advertisers, VR can be a powerful empathy machine, as this latest Above the Noise video explains.
"I think that we can change minds with this machine,” says video artist Chris Milk, a champion of VR’s potential for spreading empathy and inspiring meaningful change.
In 2014, Milk and his team visited a refugee camp in Jordan and used a 360-degree camera system to capture the day-to-day life of a 12-year-old Syrian girl. The VR experience was later shown to attendees at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. These are people who may never know what it’s like to be in a tent in a refugee camp in Jordan, Milk explains in his 2015 TED talk, but who make decisions that ultimately affect millions of people.